What’s the news: Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal on March 2, 2023, called for a SMART-Public Distribution System(PDS) initiative “to promote the use of automation” in the food distribution system. Speaking at a conference attended by Food Ministers of all states and Union Territories, Goyal said that all regions should work towards such a system. But the real question is: who stands to benefit from revamping the PDS system in such a manner? Why it matters: Whenever a pre-existing system is pushed for technological development, some important questions to ask are: why is this being done and whom does this benefit? What is the point of adding an Artificial Intelligence element in the Public Distribution System (PDS) that largely caters to the grassroots-level population? The people in these communities are often removed from technological developments and may struggle to gain foodgrains if human intervention is removed from this procedure, or even reduced. Automation plans for food distribution: As per a press release, Goyal talked about the auto grain analyser based on Artificial Intelligence certified by ICAR-CIPHET, Ludhiana that can process results with high accuracy for paddy, rice, wheat, pulses, oil seeds, and coarse grain. According to Goyal, such a mechanism will minimize human “intervention/error/biasness” and save time by giving digitally verifiable results. He called it a “transparent and accountable” system that would help with the free supply chain of foodgrains under the Public Distribution System. Further, he claimed that a seamless procurement with direct…
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